Lego managers have rejected a Muslim group’s claims that they backed down and agreed to withdraw their Star wars model of Jabba the Hutt’s palace after they were flooded with complaints from Star Wars fans.
Last week Turkish community leaders in the Austrian capital Vienna sent out a press release saying they had forced Lego to scrap the toy after a campaign declaring the set “sacrilege” and “racist.”
The row first erupted in January, after a Muslim dad complained when a relative bought one of the toys for his son as a Christmas present. And in the press release Birol Kilic – president of the Turkish Cultural Association of Austria – claimed Lego had climbed down over the row.
He wrote: “We are very grateful and congratulate Lego on the decision from 2014 to take the Lego Star Wars product Jabba’s Palace out of production and no longer to have it on sale.”
But now Lego has accused the Turkish group of misrepresenting the reality and say that the decision to stop the line at the end of 2014 had nothing to do with Turkish pressure.
Lego executives brand manager Katharina Sutch however said that the press release, timed to appear over Easter when no-one at the firm was available to comment, was not true.
She said: “As a normal process products in the Lego Star Wars assortment usually have a life-cycle of one to three years and are not in the portfolio after this time any more after that, although they might be renewed after a couple of years.
“The Lego Star Wars product Jabba’s Palace 9516 was planned from the beginning to only be in the assortment until the End of 2013 as new exiting models from the Star Wars universe are set to follow.
“Therefore the decision to exit the product by the end of the year is not a result of our dialogue with the Turkish cultural community but a planned exit. In short – the decision to stop production from the end of 2013 had nothing to do with the complaint.”
Turkish cultural leaders claimed that Jabba’s palace had been modelled closely on a real life Muslim Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul.
They said Asian and oriental figures included in the set had been portrayed as “deceitful” and criminal” characters like slave masters, gun runners and terrorists.
Angry critics also claimed that depicting guns and weapons inside a building that was “clearly” based on a mosque was an “act of sacrilege.”
The slug-like Jabba himself – seen puffing on a traditional water pipe – was shown as a “terrorist” who “likes to smoke hookah and have his victims killed”, said cultural leaders.
Melissa Gunes – general secretary of the Turkish cultural association – said : “In this Lego set Jabba is portrayed as the bad man.
“He also smokes an oriental water pipe, and keeps a princess as a belly dancer in chains. That is the sort of thing that does not belong in a child’s bedroom.”
And a picture of the Satanic-horned baddie Darth Maul on the packaging was described as “shocking.”